Vatanen was the odd-man out in being left unprotected from a deep and talented group of Ducks defensemen. But he will not be ready for the start of the season after having surgery to repair a shoulder injury.
Neal was not the only high-profile player left exposed by the Predators, who are coming off their first Stanley Cup finals appearance. Other notable Nashville players unprotected were the young forwards Pontus Aberg and Colton Sissons, who combined to score eight goals in the playoffs.
Other notable forwards left unprotected were: Minnesota Wild center Eric Staal, a nine-time 20-goal-scorer; the Los Angeles Kings’ Dustin Brown; and the Montreal Canadiens’ Tomas Plekanec. As for defensemen, Buffalo’s Zach Bogosian and Dallas’ Dan Hamhuis are available.
There is also a wealth of proven goaltenders available given that teams were…